By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
Sam Daggers, a junior at Absegami and a Galloway resident, is a country boy. He grew up in the south before moving to New Jersey and still loves to go on hunting trips with his dad. There isn’t much to hunt on Staten Island, N.Y., however, but Daggers said he is fine with spending his college years across from New York City.
The 6-foot, 180-pound outfielder and catcher recently announced his verbal commitment to Wagner College, joining St. Augustine Prep pitcher Jayson Hoopes as Cape-Atlantic League players heading north to play college ball. Daggers said he didn’t get a ton of attention during his sophomore campaign at Absegami last spring, but began drawing interest with a busy summer that included playing for the South Jersey Sand Sharks travel program run by Ed Hayes as well as Joe Bunting’s Northfield Cardinals team in the Atlantic County Baseball League. He’s also been working out with former CAL stars Mike Adams, of Holy Spirit, and Ed Charlton of St. Augustine Prep at the Baseball Performance Center in Pleasantville.
“It was actually pretty simple for me. I wasn’t very highly recruited going into summer, but I was just working and doing my thing. A couple of schools were taking looks at me, including Wagner. Wagner reached out and made me an offer. The coach said he saw me play and how much he liked me and he told me multiple times that he wanted me to play there. That resonated a lot with me, that this guy is taking a chance on me, and I appreciated that. That’s really what went into it. I love the school. It’s the perfect size for me,” Daggers said about his decision to choose Wagner. “There wasn’t really (a temptation to wait) to see who came calling because I loved Wagner as a school from the very beginning. As I was going through the process, a couple of people were telling me to wait it out and take my time. I waited a few weeks after they made the offer, but they gave me a deadline, and on the day of the deadline I was just like, ‘OK, I’m sick of waiting, I’m going to make the decision now.’’
Daggers said he didn’t feel it would be fair to the Wagner coaching staff if he kept postponing his decision, even though he had gotten some advice to do just that.
“It is a little crazy because I didn’t know what the process was like. Everybody was telling me to take my time and look at different things. But that was all people who were already committed, so that was their mindset. Times are changing, and that’s just how it is. I was fine with making the decision because that’s where I want to be,” he said. “Wagner offered me a good amount of money to come and play there, and I know if I was a college coach, I wouldn’t want that money floating around out there just waiting for somebody who may or may not take it. So, I didn’t want (the Wagner coach) thinking I wasn’t going to take the offer. They started showing interest in the middle of the summer, came to a few of my games, and during the fall is when they really jumped in. They came to see some of my games, and I guess I performed well enough for them to make the decision (to give an offer).”
Daggers said playing in the ACBL — which is primarily a high level collegiate summer league — as a 16-year-old has helped him develop into a college prospect.
“There are more and more young guys coming into the ACBL, and if I was a college coach, that would be a good place for me to come and look at people because even if they don’t do well, they are going up against college guys and former pros, so just to see how they handle themselves in those types of situations — if I was a college coach I would definitely attend one of those games if I was interested in a player,” Daggers said. “Last summer was my first year and I feel like it helped me a lot with my hitting, and just being on the bench with those guys talking baseball, learning what I don’t know about the college game and the higher levels. And going up against college pitching — sometimes you are going up against a guy like Mike Adams who throws in the low 90s. It was hard for me, and I didn’t always succeed, but it helped me learn for the future.”
He also said playing the CAL provides the type of competition that can mold young guys into the types of players who can draw the interest of college baseball programs.
“I feel like the competition at the high school level in South Jersey has gotten so much better, with St. Augustine having a great lineup, and Mainland having great pitching,” he said. “A lot of schools are getting a lot of talent, so I know I’m coming from an area where good baseball players are really concentrated, so, hopefully the transition to the next level won’t be so hard.”
Daggers certainly had a chance to improve his stock with two seasons of high school baseball still left to play, but said he felt as though Wagner has everything he’s looking for.
“It’s not an overwhelming place, but it’s also not so small that it’s like high school all over again,” said Daggers, who helped lead Absegami to 11 wins and a state playoff berth last spring. “It’s the perfect size I was looking for. I think Wagner is the perfect fit. And being in Staten Island, right across from Manhattan, whatever I decide to major in — something in business, probably — I think I’ll have a good opportunity to get into a good career.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays